A robust calibration of the clumped isotopes to temperature relationship for foraminifers


The clumped isotope (Δ47) proxy is a promising geochemical tool to reconstruct past ocean temperatures far back in time and in unknown settings, due to its unique thermodynamic basis that renders it independent from other environmental factors like seawater composition. Although previously hampered by large sample-size requirements, recent methodological advances have made the paleoceanographic application of Δ47 on small (<5 mg) foraminifer samples possible. Previous studies show a reasonable match between Δ47 calibrations based on synthetic carbonate and various species of planktonic foraminifers. However, studies performed before recent methodological advances were based on relatively few species and data treatment that is now outdated. To overcome these limitations and elucidate species-specific effects, we analyzed 14 species of planktonic foraminifers in sediment surface samples from 13 sites, covering a growth temperature range of ∼0-28 °C. We selected mixed layer-dwelling and deep-dwelling species from a wide range of ocean settings to evaluate the feasibility of temperature reconstructions for different water depths. Various techniques to estimate foraminifer calcification temperatures were tested in order to assess their effects on the calibration and to find the most suitable approach. Results from this study generally confirm previous findings that there are no species-specific effects on the Δ47-temperature relationship in planktonic foraminifers, with one possible exception. Various morphotypes of Globigerinoides ruber were found to often deviate from the general trend determined for planktonic foraminifers. Our data are in excellent agreement with a recent foraminifer calibration study that was performed with a different analytical setup, as well as with a calibration based exclusively on benthic foraminifers. A combined, methodologically homogenized dataset also reveals very good agreement with an inorganic calibration based on travertines. Our findings highlight the potential of the Δ47 paleothermometer to be applied to recent and extinct species alike to study surface ocean temperatures as well as thermocline variability for a multitude of settings and time scales.

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 270, 160-183